The project of the Centre for Mind/Brain Sciences coordinated by Professor Carlo Miniussi will focus on the cognitive rehabilitation of people with Alzheimer’s disease by strengthening the brain’s natural plasticity through transcranial magnetic stimulation
The project of the Physics department, coordinated by Professor Ines Mancini, aims to develop cancer drugs by recreating in the lab some of the molecules naturally occurring in sea living organisms, like sponges and corals, which have natural antibacterial properties.

StimoLaMente

Carlo Miniussi – CIMEC

The risk of developing a cognitive disorder increases with ageing.

Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by the slow but inevitable progression of cognitive deficits, and little is known about the brain mechanisms that could be involved in terms of cerebral reorganization and compensation. 

There are currently 30 million people with dementia in the world, with 4.6 million new cases annually (one new case every 7 seconds, based on estimates from Alzheimer's Disease International). 

New non-invasive cerebral stimulation techniques developed in recent years improve learning processes. In particular, recent studies have demonstrated that transcranial magnetic stimulation (TSM) treatments improve cognitive deficits in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

Research conducted by the laboratory led by professor Miniussi gives patients access to an innovative non-pharmaceutical therapy: its purpose is to assess the efficacy of rehabilitation treatments based on stimulation techniques.

The researchers will also draft a rehabilitation protocol for patients with Alzheimer’s disease which combines cerebral stimulation and cognitive rehabilitation over a 4-week period.

This action is directed to a group of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. 

In more detail, the research project aims to:

  • establish the best protocols for helping cognitive rehabilitation through transcranial magnetic stimulation; 
  • investigate the neural correlations of improvement achieved through transcranial magnetic stimulation. EEG is used both before and after the stimulation treatment to determine any neural changes that would prove the improvement achieved.

The results are essential to better understand the mechanisms through which cortical stimulation helps cerebral plasticity and in particular to design an effective approach to the treatment of cognitive deficits that can be used in clinical practice.

Including research in daily life has always been difficult.

It is very important that scientific progress translates into benefits for patients. The mechanisms used by the human brain to create memories, pay attention to things and use language abilities to communicate are crucial for people. Therefore working to restore these functions has a significant social and ethical impact.

 

Cancer drugs from marine organisms

Ines Mancini – Department of Physics

Natural organic molecules have been successfully used in the past and still play a key role in the discovery of new drugs. Marine ecosystems are still largely unexplored compared to land ones, but we know that they are the source of many bioactive substances that can be used to treat various disorders.

The chemistry of natural substances is the main focus of the research team led by Professor Ines Mancini at the Laboratory of Bio-Organic Chemistry of the University of Trento, where she has been working for over thirty years on products obtained from marine organisms.

The research work of the team is mostly centered on secondary metabolites extracted from sponges from tropical and (recently) Antarctic seas, that is substances that marine organisms produce in small quantity and use mainly for self-defense. 

The molecular structure of the compounds, extracted and purified, is characterized through modern analysis techniques like nuclear magnetic resonance and mass spectrometry. Organic synthesis that relies on a sequence of reactions induced by commercial reagents makes it possible both to obtain greater quantities of the same natural molecule and to manufacture molecules with a similar structure.

Taking inspiration from Arsenicin A, the first naturally occurring organoarsenic compound isolated by the laboratory from a New Caledonian marine sponge, the research team published an efficient synthesis method thanks to which it managed to obtain the same natural product and a series of new analogues.

Human tumor cell lines tested in vitro by the National Cancer Institute (NCI-USA) have revealed that these molecules are more active than a drug approved in 2000 to treat some types of leukemia and are currently studied to treat other types of tumors. 

The results achieved proved very promising to develop new therapeutic drugs to treat solid tumors.

The next studies, in particular, will try to obtain more molecules inspired from the natural product and to connect their structure to anticancer activity in order to identify a more targeted and less toxic compound that will form the base for the potential development of a new drug.

5x1000 donations

As the deadline to submit your tax return approaches, you are offered the opportunity to make a donation (5 per thousand) to an organization of your choice. You can freely choose the recipient of your donation, which amounts to a percentage of your taxes.

If you choose to support research you will give Italy and its youth a future of innovation, growth and well-being. This is something the country really needs right now. A responsibility that involves all of us.

How to donate

Just tell it to your tax filing service or accountant when it’s time.
To make your donation to the University of Trento, you have to:

1. sign the appropriate box in the form that the Revenue Agency (Agenzia delle Entrate) uses for tax returns:

  • form CU 2018 – "Scheda per la scelta della destinazione dell’8x1000, del 5x1000 e del 2x1000 dell'IRPEF"
  • form 730/2018 – 2017 tax return
  • form Unico persone fisiche 2018 (natural persons) – 2017 tax return

You can choose only one recipient for your donation.

2. ​State the University of Trento tax identification number: 00340520220.

Please note that writing the tax identification number is essential to make sure that the University of Trento will receive your donation.